Chrome 81 is shaping up to be an AR-packed release

Web browsers today are a far cry from the early days of the Internet. It is possible, though not really advisable, to even run operating systems in them, if not be an operating system itself. Web technologies have opened up worlds of new experiences and almost literally. No longer confined to powerful devices or even smartphones, mixed reality has come to the no longer modest web browser and the upcoming Chrome 81 release will drive the browser further down that road, this time with augmented reality technologies.

Chrome 79 was the first version to bring WebXR, the up and coming industry standard that aims to enable virtual, augmented, mixed, and extended realities to the web browser. Unsurprisingly, the first versions of the standard and Chrome focused more on handling virtual reality features, particularly with mapping device position and movement to the virtual world.

With Chrome 81, Google is extending its support to augmented reality, specifically with the WebXR Hit Test API. In a nutshell, this means that developers can use a device's camera view to correctly place virtual objects on surfaces both horizontal and vertical. Google promises that those who already played around with WebXR API won't need to relearn things as it applies to both VR and AR experiences.

But while WebXR is more about creating virtual objects, NFC is all about bridging the physical and the digital in a more tangible way. With Chrome 81's support for Web NFC, a Web app can use a phone's or computer's NFC chip to interact with NFC-enabled tags and objects. This can be pretty handy in building interactive augmented reality worlds that employ real-world objects in addition to virtual ones.

Chrome 81 has entered its beta testing phase and is expected to launch as stable in mid-March. Along with NFC and AR features, that version of the web browser will also get the ball rolling in warning users of unsecure downloads, paving the way to blocking them entirely before the year ends.